Love Hate relationship of two former political colleagues coming to an end?

By Walter Jayawardhana


In an obvious reference to his estranged cabinet colleague Anura Bandaranaike President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is not a heritage of few individuals but of the people.

He made the statement at a function held at his official residence, Temple Trees, to hand over letters of appointment to newly selected electoral organizers of the SLFP of which he is the President.

The strange love hate relationship between the Bandaranaikes-Chandrika and Anura  and Rajapaksa developed after Rajapaksa won the party nominations for the last Presidential election to the chagrin of the Bandaranaikes, whose father formed the ruling party after crossing over from the then ruling United National Party (UNP) about half a century ago. Mahinda’s father D. A. Rajapaksa followed in the footsteps of the Bandaranaike patriarch, the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in the crossing over. Bandaranaike later said, "When I was crossing over to the other side of the isle in parliament I thought it was only my shadow following me.  But when I looked back it was DA."

Since then Bandaranaikes and Rajapaksas have been friends. When Mahinda took the hand of a bride Anura Bandaranaike was the obvious choice of the best man at the wedding. But there have been many differences between Anura and Mahinda. When Anura quarreled with his own family, once with mother Sirima who became the world’s first woman Prime Minister and sister Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, former President of Sri Lanka and left the party several times later to rejoin Mahinda waited patiently laying a stronger foundation for him to stand. Once before, even sister Chandrika left the party to form another political breakaway party under her matinee-idol husband Vijaya Kumaratunga. After the husband was assassinated she left the country in a self-exile to London and came back to recapture party leadership when the time was ripe. Then Anura Bandaranaike for the second time left the party heart broken over lost leadership to re-join the UNP. While the Bandaranaikes were leaving and re-joining the party in style Mahinda remained in the party very patiently cultivating his grass-root level support base. The quarreling siblings joined together only during the last Presidential election this time in recent history’s  most astounding political coup intended to defeat the official candidate of their own party for President, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Both brother and sister started a secret campaign to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa and make Ranil Wickremesinghe the President of the country. It was customary for Mahinda Rajapaksa to tell people during the campaign that his own party people were campaigning against him. He therefore asked his friends to work more hard.

Defeating own party candidate for the continuance of the Bandaranaike clan power over the SLFP was not something new. Earlier it has been done to defeat an aristocratic relative of Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike called Hector Kobbekaduwa, successfully. The resultant effects of the defeat of the party then helped keep the political rivals of the party, the UNP for three decades in power.

But it did not work so well this time although the Bandaranaikes were so sure. Anura Bandaranaike even filled his membership forms on the request of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to rejoin the UNP and mended his fences with a UNP strong man, the editor of the Sunday Leader, organ of Ranil Wickremesinghe. But in the morning when all votes have been counted Mahinda Rajapaksa has won. No one expected Mahinda to give Anura a portfolio. But being a compassionate man Mahinda though never gave Anura the earlier promised Prime Ministership  gave his best man the Ministership of Tourism, a portfolio that would accommodate the bachelor minister’s favorite trips to Los Angeles and London.  Although the trips continued to his loveable destinations, not his new political alliance with sister Chandrika and his unsavory comments about Mahinda ever ceased. The political demotion as the Minister of Heritage, a portfolio created to give him a cabinet salary, but restrained to a small government department in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s reshuffled cabinet seems like the final stage of decades old political alliance of two political families unless a miracle could save Anura, from oblivion. Graying and obese it was almost comical to watch him standing up and stating in parliament that the Secretary of his Ministry does not even have a place to keep her desk! What am I to do? Watch all those half naked Sigiriya ladies from a hotel room there? he asked


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Posted on February 9, 2007, in Sri Lanka and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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